Stefan Heck
Oct 7, 2016 · 6 min read

Autonomous car technology is capturing imaginations and getting a lot of attention. The imminent promise of self-driving cars is generating fear in some, and to others, visions of a utopia free of traffic jams and traffic fatalities. But as the automotive and technology worlds furiously work to introduce self-driving vehicles, it’s worth noting that we’re looking at an on-ramp period of several years in which autonomous cars must co-exist on the roadways with vehicles that have some autonomous features, as well as cars operated by just plain human drivers.

To pave the way to true autonomy, all those with a stake in modern mobility (and that’s, well, just about everybody and every institution or business) will need a much clearer picture of how drivers behave, and how drivers interact with each other and their environment. Getting that picture will require new levels of cooperation among auto makers, insurance companies, technology companies, and public and private enterprise. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s recently-issued Automated Vehicles Policy Outline, which includes suggested 15-point safety guidelines is a great jump start for this process, but the autonomous car arena is still miles away from the rubber meeting the road.

But it’s getting closer. Today, I’m pleased that Nauto has announced strategic partnerships with major automakers and a global insurance company to begin deploying the Nauto system and pooling data. The resulting anonymized information, contributed from thousands of vehicles from different manufacturers, demonstrates an unprecedented level of cooperation and will propel autonomous technology development in profound ways. You can read about it in our press release below.


Top Insurance and Auto Industry Companies to Work with Nauto’s Continuous Learning Network To Jointly Develop Standard Data Platform For The Future of Intelligent Vehicles.

Palo Alto, CA, October 7, 2016 — Autonomous vehicle technology company Nauto has entered into strategic agreements with three major auto companies, including BMW i Ventures and Toyota Research Institute, as well as with Allianz Ventures, part of the leading global financial service provider and insurance company Allianz Group.

These companies have invested in Nauto and are working with the company on autonomous vehicle development using the Nauto cloud-based data learning platform. Nauto has developed deep learning capabilities that run both in the cloud and on retrofit devices that can be mounted in any vehicle. Nauto is already deployed into commercial passenger, logistics and delivery fleets and enables these fleets to manage vehicle and driver safety and operate more efficiently. The agreements enable Nauto to significantly grow its artificial intelligence-powered deep learning network and accelerate deployment into shared vehicle fleets and eventually migrate from retrofit device into new production vehicles.

Under the agreements, Nauto and its auto and insurance industry partners will license data and technologies, including Nauto’s artificial intelligence-powered vehicle network. As more and more vehicles deploy Nauto, its connected car network will be populated with greater volumes of precise information on how drivers and vehicles behave and perform — understanding both how excellent drivers handle vehicles in real urban conditions as well as the combinations of errors, distraction, and challenging circumstances that lead to crashes. The resulting insights will improve fleet safety and operations near term to save lives and reduce liability and expenses. Over time they will usher in a new era, from human-driven to autonomous vehicles.

“As the auto industry experiences this period of unprecedented innovation, we’ve also reached a need for a learning network that will allow human and autonomous vehicles to operate together harmoniously. We want drivers, passengers, and everyone in the manufacturing and infrastructure supply chain to unlock the value that can come from pooling precise, but secure and anonymous data from Nauto’s network,” said Stefan Heck, CEO of Nauto. “Having the participation of major players in the auto and insurance industry is essential in establishing a cornerstone as we re-imagine and build a safer, smarter and congestion-free transportation system. We are honored to have Nauto play an important part in building an onramp that will benefit the automotive and insurance industries, their supply chain, as well as human drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.”

“We were impressed by Nauto’s comprehensive approach to improving urban mobility and are excited to be part of further developing its future. BMW will benefit from insights gained from Nauto’s continuous learning network as part of our autonomous development efforts,” said Ulrich Quay, Head of BMW i Ventures.

“What Nauto is developing is very much aligned with Toyota Research Institute’s own commitment to developing safe, reliable mobility systems,” said Gill Pratt, CEO Toyota Research Institute. “Our relationship with Nauto and its team will accelerate what we are doing with deep learning systems and inform ways we can serve as a guardian for human drivers during a period of technology-driven change in transportation and mobility overall.”

“The technology Nauto is developing has the potential to revolutionize the motor insurance business regarding claims handling, underwriting and profitability,” said Solmaz Altin, Chief Digital Officer of Allianz Group. “We are looking forward to piloting this technology to enhance our value proposition towards customers and to contribute to road safety.”

Nauto transforms today’s commercial fleets into tomorrow’s autonomous driving network by enhancing operations, reducing costs and delivering safer roads. The Nauto system — an in-vehicle camera and sensor hardware, a smart network and a continuous learning cloud — allows any vehicle, human or autonomously driven, to be retrofit with innovative safety and networking technology. A Nauto-enabled vehicle becomes part of a valuable network that is constantly learning how to reduce risks and make driving safer and more efficient. At Nauto’s core is a perpetually learning artificial intelligence system which uses computer vision, GPS, vehicle sensors and data from its smart cloud to give a full, contextual and accurate picture and provide insights into driver behavior. Nauto’s system stays one step ahead to prevent accidents before they happen, capture information about close calls, and learn from relevant vehicle and driver behavior. Nauto can detect potential driver distraction inside the car, as well as safety issues outside the vehicle. The system automatically uploads and tags road conditions and incidents that matter (drivers don’t need to manually input data) and alerts fleet managers to accidents, near-misses or major driving performance issues.

In addition, Nauto is working with the insurance industry to provide insights that help insurers offer enhanced services and build long-lasting customer relationships. Insurers get a more precise view of each and every driver that can help personalize coverage, deliver precision risk assessments, reduce fraudulent claims and provide enhanced urban mobility services for commercial fleets. Nauto’s artificial intelligence platform drives deep learning that goes beyond the basics of recorded events by capturing driver behavior, inside-the-vehicle activity and correlations from road, weather and traffic conditions. Nauto can not only rate drivers, but also detect patterns of near-misses and dangerous circumstances to coach and proactively warn drivers before accidents happen.

Nauto was co-founded in 2015 by CEO Stefan Heck, Ph.D., a Stanford Consulting Professor and former McKinsey & Company senior partner, and CTO Frederick Soo Ph.D., a neuroscientist-turned hardware engineer and entrepreneur. Nauto’s backers include Playground Global, Draper Nexus and Index Ventures. Nauto’s team of data science and machine learning Ph.D’s, world class engineers, and industry veterans in insurance and livery fleet operations are located in Playground Global Studio, where they are developing Nauto’s products and deploying them to professional fleet and insurance industry customers. Dr. Heck was inspired to develop Nauto after decades of advising some of the world’s biggest companies and governments on energy, innovation and resource economics.

Nauto-equipped vehicles began gathering and learning street and driving patterns in more than 24 cities around the world, from Bangalore and Vienna to Mexico City and Boston, and are now in commercial deployments in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City.

More information about Nauto is available at, or on LinkedIn, Facebook and @NautoDriver on Twitter.

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